boastest when thou talkest of teaching soldiers; they are not suited for the service, nor dost thou know anything about it thyself. It would be better if thou would'st stay at home and say thy prayers. My esteemed guests, pray be seated."
We took our places. Vassilissa Yegorovna was not silent for an instant, and kept putting all manner of questions to me: who were my parents? were they alive? where did they live? what was their income? Upon learning that my father possessed three hundred peasants, "Is it possible!" she said; "well, there are rich people in the world! we possess only one soul, the girl Paláshka, but, thank God, we manage to exist. We are beset but by one trouble: Masha is a marriageable girl, and what is her dower to be? a comb, a broom, and a few pence wherewith to pay for her bath. 'Twere well if some good man would take her with so much, otherwise she must remain an old maid."
I looked at Maria Ivanovna. She had blushed crimson, and tears were dropping on her plate. I felt for her and hastened to change the conversation.
"I have heard," I said, somewhat inopportunely, "it is apprehended that the Bashkirs purpose attacking your fortress."
"Who did'st thou hear that from, my little father?" asked Ivan Kouzmitch.
"I was told so at Orenburg," answered I.
"Nonsense!" said the commandant, "we have not heard anything about it for a long time. The Bashkirs
- By the term soul was understood a serf.—Tr.